‘Twas a somber scene earlier tonight at the MCI Center prior to the Wizards’ 108-107 defeat of the Sixers, said victory coming hours after the passing of Washington owner Abe Pollin (shown above with Wes Unseld). While Pollin is remembered by many for presiding over the franchise’s sole NBA championship in 1978, the club’s move from Baltimore to Washington DC (and subsequent ditching of the name “Bullets”, presumably to avoid association with the Clash song of the same name), in more recent years, became the first guy to kick Michael Jordan to the curb since His Airness’ high school J.V. coach., The Washington Post’s Peter Pearl eulogizes a man “among the last of the old-school pro sports owners, running the Wizards and earlier the National Hockey League’s Washington Capitals as a family business, shaped by his strong personality and his intense loyalties.”
Strong-willed and sometimes cantankerous, Mr. Pollin adamantly refused to compromise his principles in the sports world, even if it meant losing. He got rid of all-star basketball players such as Chris Webber and Rasheed Wallace because he did not like their erratic lifestyles and work habits, and he suffered through a public relations nightmare in 2003 when he summarily fired Michael Jordan, then the most famous athlete on the planet. Jordan, who made a highly publicized comeback for the Wizards as a basketball executive and then as a player, had brought national attention and increased revenue to a mediocre franchise. But Mr. Pollin saw Jordan as a selfish and disruptive influence.
After hiring a new coach and team president to replace Jordan, Mr. Pollin defiantly spoke to his critics in the third person, declaring, “Those of you in the media who have said Mr. Pollin was over the hill and incompetent, it proves that he still knows what he’s doing.”